Lucky Jordan (1942) Poster


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entertaining spy thriller with a light touch
babblingbooks5 July 2005
This picture was fun to watch. Alan Ladd had a style as a gangster that counterpointed well with the wonderful Sheldon Leonard ("Hey, Buddy, ... C'mere!") Helen Walker presented an unusually perky, sexy look that was never really exploited in the movies. When she distracted the nazi spy he was not alone. I sat through the movie again to be distracted a second time. The picture may become a cult 'classic', if it has not already and I recommend most insistently that you view it. Ladd's involvement with the old 'bag lady' will touch you. Once again, for a light comedy, spy thriller (The Second World War was in full sway) it was away ahead of most of it's ilk. My favourite Alan Ladd movie.
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Good fun and light on the propaganda Warning: Spoilers
This is one of my favourite Alan Ladd films and one I can watch over and over - has some great one liners. It shows that Ladd was very good at comedies and its a shame he didn't do more - my favourite line is where his lawyer says he tried to get him out of the army draft as 4F which meant "socially undesirable" - Ladd isn't impressed and with an indignant shrug of his shoulders says "Whadaya mean socially undesirable? Dames like me!" Ladd plays Lucky who is a charming, good looking and very successful racketeer who is trying to avoid the draft. However even with the drunk "old bag" (Lucky's words) pretending to be his dependent Ma he is called up. So he ends up in the army but after a spell in the cooler for insubordination he escapes by nicking the car and coat of an army scientist along with, inadvertently, secret tank drawings. It then transpires that Lucky's sidekick Slip Moran has got involved with foreign spies who will pay a fortune for the tank plans. What follows is a tale of double dealing (by Slip), romantic entanglements with Helen Walker ("cute eyes" as Lucky calls her) and Lucky's partial redemption when he realises just how bad the Nazis are (when they beat up his "ma"). There is a really good chase scene when the baddies are after Lucky in the gardens. Lucky of course does the right thing in the end but he isn't overly gushy about why and there aren't any long winded patriotic speeches - he just doesn't like men who beat up old women. The film ends on a funny note too because despite being a good guy and going back to the army a hero, the film ends with Lucky back in the cooler for yet another act of insubordination making it clear that even his goodness/patriotism has its limits. All in all a funny, entertaining film with a great cast.
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The Theory of Degrees of Evil - Wartime Style
theowinthrop20 June 2006
Warning: Spoilers
After THIS GUN FOR HIRE, Paramount realized they had a popular star and leading man in Alan Ladd. Good looking, and with camera angles and tricks to disguise his short height, he was soon a leading star at the studio. But like so many other good ideas, Paramounts production heads thought only of image in making Ladd movies. In THIS GUN FOR HIRE he had been Raven, a cold-blooded killer made that way by a crummy childhood (culminating in his self-defense killing of his aunt),and years of reformatories and prisons. Is it any wonder that he sells his killing services for whoever pays the best price...but wait, he does like little kids, does like cats, is willing to consider replacing the blouse of an obnoxious maid he had a fight with, and he does start a type of patriotic reform with the aid of understanding (and pretty) Veronica Lake. It takes too late, but he dies on the side of the angels (aiding the U.S.).

THIS GUN FOR HIRE set up a formula that would be used again and again, until Ladd would try to vary it with westerns (like his classic SHANE), and even classic novels (THE GREAT GATSBY). He was a tough guy, who gradually learns that there are certain things that are so bad or evil they transcend stuff you are willing to accept as part of doing illegal business (i.e., breaking someone's head is tolerable, but setting up a death camp or marching soldiers on a death march is not).

This theory of "degrees of evil" had been used in the 1930s in gangster films (and would be used again in film noir gangster films in the 1940s and 1950s). The idea is that the criminals should not be lumped together so easily. It was okay for Jimmy Cagney (as Rocky in ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES) to shoot down two "business associates", because Rocky was fair and even handed with loot - just insisting that his loot was left his loot, while those two associates (one is Humphrey Bogart as a crooked lawyer) were just willing to cheat Rocky of his loot. Similarly, with Edward G. Robinson in THE AMAZING DR. CLITTERHOUSE, he is a cultured, urbane, and helpful man doing research into crime, who ends up running Bogart's mob - but Bogart is a nasty customer who tries to do all his enemies in (he tries to freeze Robinson to death in a fur vault). Bogart (when he too rises to stardom in HIGH SIERRA) is an intelligent and loyal lieutenant to good old Donald McBride, but McBride's other lieutenant is Barton MacLane, who is a corrupt ex-cop (so he's totally bad). See - degrees of evil here. It must have caused consternation with the Hays Office and the Breen Office to follow these illogical, logical sequences mirroring thought or philosophy in screenplays.

The villains in THIS GUN FOR HIRE (Tully Marshall, Laird Cregar, and Marc Lawrence) are going to sell poison gas to Japan after Pearl Harbor, so they are traitors (well paid ones too - Marshall has some secret Japanese medal for his services to Hirohito). Their destruction by Ladd is welcomed by the post-Pearl Harbor audience watching the film (although Ladd also takes a pot shot at Robert Preston, who is not a traitor but a detective, and does kill a cop).

LUCKY JORDAN was a logical extension of the plot of THIS GUN FOR HIRE. Ladd, as Jordan, is the surly head of a mob, and is drafted. He soon is in the stockade for insubordination, but flees to return to his mob. He really is at home in his urban street jungle. But he finds his second in command (the superb Sheldon Leonard) has pulled a "Moriarty" (i.e. SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE SECRET WEAPON), in that he is aiding the Axis (Miles Mander) in spying and working against the U.S. Ladd has learned enough about the Axis to be opposed to this, and Leonard (in any case) is not really interested in returning the mob's leadership to Ladd. So the audience watches Ladd's patriotism rise enough to overcome (or blend in with) his surly gangster mentality. Eventually he is the personification of FDR's famous comment about backing Trujillo in the Dominican Republic during the war. An aide told FDR that Trujillo was a real s.o.b. "Yes," said the President somberly, "BUT HE'S OUR S.O.B.!"

With Helen Walker as the love interest, but she's not as good in blending with Ladd as Lake is. So the film is only an "8" out of "10". But still entertaining, despite it's weird morality point of view.
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Alan Ladd as a cynical gangster hiding a heart of gold...
Doylenf26 January 2011
Paramount had enough confidence in ALAN LADD (after THIS GUN FOR HIRE and THE GLASS KEY) to give him solo star billing above the title for LUCKY JORDAN. He fits the role of the cynical, wise-cracking Jordan, every inch the cocky wise guy who keeps getting into one scrape after another until the fadeout.

Instead of Veronica Lake, we have HELEN WALKER as the WAC he's forced to kidnap when she threatens to report him to the authorities for minor infractions. It's Walker's first film and she handles her chores with great assurance.

But the scene-stealer is MABEL PAIGE as an old wino who is chosen to act as Ladd's mother, so he can call her a dependent and avoid the military draft. Trouble brews when Ladd's own henchman (SHELDON LEONARD) is part of a scheme to turn over military plans to the enemy during World War II. Ladd gets back at Leonard on a few occasions but really throws the book at the mob when they beat up "his old lady."

All of it is directed at a fast pace by Walter Tuttle. The script is full of one-liners that draw a laugh, most of them delivered in crisp style by Ladd himself. It's easy to see why his popularity as the hottest male star at Paramount was cemented with this film. He's very believable as the cynic with a heart of gold. It's an energetic performance that made the studio realize they had a good prospect for stardom on their hands.

Only quibble: The print shown on TCM was a poor one needing restoration.
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Wish Ladd made more comedies
joanna-1052 July 2015
This is a very entertaining movie. A lot funnier upon repeated viewing (dialogue is very witty and fast). Alan Ladd (underrated actor to begin with) has made very few comedies and shines here in both delivery, mannerisms and excellent timing. Helen Walker is holding her own and has just about as good an on-screen chemistry with Ladd as Veronica Lake in his noir movies. The plot is pretty stupid because of introduction of Nazis (in US ?!), secret plans, treason, etc. The whole patriotic hullabaloo, in my opinion, only gets in the way of otherwise interesting idea of a wise guy trying to dodge draft by any means necessary (especially as the movie was released in 1942). It's a pity Ladd got "pigeonholed" by his studio (Paramount) into tough guy, action hero and/or tragic roles. He would have been a winner in an intelligent, dialogue based comedy, or even romantic comedy (dare I say: the caliber of Cary Grant?!). I'm buying this one for my collection of Ladd's movies. :D
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"Nazi is just another word for cockroach."
rmax30482326 January 2011
Warning: Spoilers
I kind of enjoyed this piece of mindless propaganda from the first year of World War II. What's not to like? Here is Alan Ladd, a cynical gangster, drafted into the Army. He doesn't like the Army. He deserts, taking a hostage, Helen Walker. But when he takes her back to his civilized life, he finds his erstwhile boss, Sheldon Leonard, is selling secrets to the Nazis. He doesn't like this either. He likes it even less when they beat up his dear old, gray-haired adopted mother. So he fights against the Nazis and though they capture him he escapes and brings them to justice. Helen Walker tells him, "After what you've done they won't worry about deserting. They'll probably give you a medal." Last shot, Lucky Jorden in sweat-soaked fatigues, shoveling dirt. There were several works of vernacular art at the time -- comic books, "All Through the Night" -- reassuring us that gangsters might break the law but were never traitors.

Alan Ladd was short and in this movie his suits looks baggy, especially the trousers, and his hat brim is so wide in nudges against Stetson territory. But he was an acceptable leading man at Paramount. His hair was blond and his eyebrows dark, and he had a resonant baritone voice that was often used to good effect in radio dramas. He had a surprising physical grace too. His movements were smooth, like those of an acrobat. He does some of his own stunts, scrambling across roofs and leaping over fences. His performance in "Shane," ten years later, was criticized as ligneous but I don't know why. The part called for a taciturn but sensitive hero.

Helen Walker was interesting too. Her career was cut short but she did pretty well in ordinary roles that didn't call for too much. Her blond beauty was uniquely common. At one point in this film, she deliberately inches up her skirt in a way that must have raised hackles in 1942.

The Nazis are a bunch of evil, slimy bastards. "Vee haff vays of making you talk." They say things like that. Sheldon Leonard as the dumb gangster is always enjoyable. The final chase takes us on a run through a vast bed of tulips -- "Torch of Holland" variety, if there is such a thing. It's a hoot to see Ladd galloping through the tulips.

Not to be taken seriously, it's fun.
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A Newly Minted Patriot
bkoganbing26 January 2011
After Alan Ladd's success in This Gun For Hire and The Glass Key, roles more traditionally associated with him, Paramount decided to give him top billing in Lucky Jordan, a film remarkably similar to Humphrey Bogart's All Through The Night in which gangster Bogart foils a Nazi spy ring. Although Ladd does well in the part, this was something given Ladd's diminutive stature that James Cagney would have breezed through.

In the title role Ladd is a gangster who's most reluctant to go into military service and leave the lifestyle he's become accustomed to. His number one subordinate Sheldon Leonard is most anxious to see him leave so he can move in on everything including Marie McDonald. Ladd and lawyer Lloyd Corrigan try all kinds of gambits, the last being to hire an Apple Annie type to fake being Ladd's mother so he can claim he's her sole support. Mabel Paige who played the gin swilling old souse is the best one in the film.

Ladd finally goes in the army, but he crashes out like you would in a prison film and accidentally gets some secret plans for a new airplane in the car he hijacked. Furthermore Sheldon Leonard is doing business with people who'd like those plans as the old rackets are drying up do to the war. All this doesn't faze Ladd, not even the pleadings of Helen Walker who is an Army WAC, but when the spies beat up on Paige our boy is not about to see the institution of motherhood defiled.

Lucky Jordan is played tongue in cheek just like All Through The Night. It made a profit for Paramount and confirmed Ladd's box office appeal. But it's firmly rooted in the time and place that the story is set in and hasn't really aged all that well. During his years at Paramount in the Forties Alan Ladd made far better films than Lucky Jordan that have come down as classics. This one is quite a bit less than a classic.
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A fun Gangster-Propaganda film.
MartinHafer29 December 2010
This is an early starring vehicle for Alan Ladd and like most of his early starring roles, he plays a bad guy. Lucky Jordan is a gangster who has been drafted. However, he has no allegiance to anyone but himself, so when the opportunity arises, he goes AWOL. In the process, he stumbles upon some military secrets and plans on selling them to the highest bidder. He also ends up kidnapping a spunky WAC. Now, with mobsters and Nazis in pursuit, is there any way Jordan can avoid getting killed?

One thing I noticed is that Ladd's delivery is different than in later films—a bit higher-pitched and a bit faster. It's obvious that he must have had some voice lessons after this film as it just didn't sound like him. As for the dialog, it was classic gangster lingo—the sort of stuff I love as well as other lovers of film noir. As a result, it was quite enjoyable. However, as it was planned first and foremost as a wartime propaganda film, the gangster aspect always took a back seat to patriotism. As a result, while the film was very effective in bolstering commitment to the war effort, the film itself was a tad of a letdown—especially since the viewer knew all along that by the end of the film Ladd would prove to be 100% American! Still, an enjoyable if slight and predictable gangster flick.
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Lucky Jordan- Pocket Full of Luck ***
edwagreen29 January 2011
Warning: Spoilers
This 1942 film remains an enigma to me. First, it starts out as a comedy where Jordan, a gangster, needs a double as everyone is trying to kill him.

The picture then goes into Jordan suddenly trying to avoid the draft and then becoming mixed up with a Nazi spy ring. Just a shame that Alan Ladd, as Jordan, first sees the evil of Nazism when they beat up his "hired" mother, Mabel Paige, who steals the films with her antics. Paige is proof in itself that everyone has and needs a mother, even when she is hired to impersonate this.

Sheldon Leonard is the real heavy in the film. He starts off as the guy wanting to rub out Ladd so that he can take over the gang, and then he is fully involved with the Nazi group. This is too much for even a good character actor like Leonard was.

The film shows that even a bad guy can redeem himself.
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herb-924-14873427 January 2011
This film would have been a serious satire of gangster films were it not that it is a deadly serious piece of patriotic propaganda. Even a tough crook like Ladd believes in his country and decides to get rich digging a ditch. The film is so full of improbabilities -- top secret documents being handled like seventh grade valentine's cards, a Nazi espionage cell masquerading as a flower-growing business, a young woman assuring a deserter that he won't be prosecuted, a deserter wandering around New York in broad daylight -- that the plot itself loses all tension early on. The saving grace is a wonderful performance by Mable Paige, whom Ladd leaves to recover by herself after having been severely beaten by some hoods (who are, unnoticed by Ladd, lurking in the hallway to kidnap him). Paige's performance brings this one up from negative numbers. It is awful. To say that Ladd's performance is wooden is an insult to oak trees.
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The 19 Year Old Dorothy Dandridge
The Novelist10 April 2002
The 19 year old Dorothy Dandridge got the opportunity to act alongside of Alan Ladd in this rather dull film, 'Lucky Jordan'. It sums up how lucky she was during her teens to act alongside Alan Ladd, John Wayne, The Little Rascals, Abbott and Costello and The Marx Brothers.
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The film is a write-off!
JohnHowardReid27 May 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Copyright 26 February 1943 by Paramount Pictures, Inc. New York opening at the Rialto: 24 January 1943. U.S. release: 16 November 1942 (sic). Australian release: 27 April 1944. 7,463 feet. 83 minutes.

SYNOPSIS: Gangster tries to dodge the draft.

NOTES: Thanks to Ladd's popularity, a big money-spinner in America and Australia.

COMMENT: The star and director of This Gun For Hire are here employed on a small-budget, war-time propaganda, espionage thriller in which a gangster, forcibly inducted into the army, goes AWOL and rounds up a Nazi spy ring! No wonder Ladd's performance and Tuttle's direction are perfunctory. True, it opens promisingly with the street slaying of a look-a-like double and the door of the inner sanctum swinging open (as in This Gun) to reveal the king of the rackets behind an enormous swivel chair; and we like the drafting of a moocher as "Mrs Jordan".

But then the clichés take over. "Something happened to me down at the Draft Board. I began to think you really were my son!" And the whole episode of Lucky spending his day in the canteen and insulting the colonel is absolutely nonsensical.

There were racketeers inducted into the army but after an initial squawk they soon settled down and had things organised. The English film On the Fiddle presents a truer picture of this sort of situation.

Anyway, the story goes from bad to worse. It is impossible to believe in it, yet it's not funny enough to be a comedy. The chase climax in the location gardens is not badly staged, but otherwise the film is a write-off.

The cast is not much. Only fans of Marie McDonald are going to obtain any satisfaction, though her scenes are disappointingly brief. Sheldon Leonard overdoes the double-crossing, but we like him, and there are a couple of effective cameos from Miles Mander and John Wengraf as a pair of Nazi spies.

Despite Ladd's presence (this was his third film as a star) and the line-up of behind-the-camera talent, the film was obviously shot very quickly and very cheaply. Production values are emphatically "B" and are way below the capabilities of those employed - this is especially true of the photography and art direction.
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